By Anino Aganbi & Chris Onuoha
ON April 14, 2014, Boko Haram militants attacked a government secondary boarding school in Chibok, Borno state, where girls from surrounding areas had gone to take exams.
Many schools in the region had shut down. The gunmen arrived in the town late at night in a blaze of gunfire and headed for the school where they raided the dormitories and loaded 276 girls on to lorries. Some managed to escape within hours of their kidnapping, mostly by jumping off the lorries and running off into the bushes. It has been three years since that gruesome day and still 195 girls are yet to be found.
Change in the Presidency: Nigerians having believed that putting someone from the North in power would put an end to insurgency in Nigeria got the shock of their lives as despite seemingly handing over power to the north, little has changed. Insurgency still reigns. According to Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate in one of the statements he made to CNN’s Chief International Correspondent Christine Amanpour, “This is a government which is not only in denial mentally, but in denial about certain obvious steps to take. It’s one of those rather child-like situations that if you shut your eyes, if you don’t exhibit the tactile evidence of the missing humanity here, that somehow the problem will go away,” Soyinka said.
July 9, 2015 had President Buhari give a detailed account of his efforts in ending insurgency in Nigeria and assured the country all hope was not lost.
“I think you will agree that the present government takes the issue very seriously. Within a week of being sworn in, I visited Niger, Chad and would have visited Cameroon but for the invitation of the G7 to go to Germany and listen to them. I’m very impressed with the leadership of this important group (G7) other than the United Nations itself. They are very concerned about security in Nigeria led by abduction of the Chibok girls by the terrorists.
Over the years, successive Nigerian governments have been criticized for failing to recover the young hostages. The kidnapping which sparked global outrage also, prompted global and influential figures to support the campaign to #BringBackOurGirls.The kidnap of the chibok girls in April 14 ,2014 saw about men and women from all over the world come out of their homes with #Bringbackourgirls. We had women like Michelle Obama, Malala, Ngozi Ezekwensili, and a host of others come out with one voice to ask for the return of these girls. Three years after, the number of people campaigning for these girls has dwindled and a lot of voices are no longer being heard. But still, there are voices in the background asking have these girls been forgotten?
The role of the Nigerian Army
The Nigerian army has come a long way in ensuring that insurgency is brought to its minimal and doing everything within their power to rescue these girls.
September 4, 2016 saw the Nigerian Army get commended for its courage and gallantry over its fight against insurgency.
“We must as always, however, first acknowledge the courage and gallantry of our soldiers in the frontlines, the Multinational Joint Task Force, and the Civilian JTF, and urge them to remain resilient in the face of attacks as these. Their labour and sacrifice shall never be in vain.
“We acknowledge the return of thousands of our fellow citizens who were never confirmed by the federal government to be missing but have since been rescued by our military,” said #BBOG group leaders.
Aisha Yesufu, co-converner of #BBOG group states in a press groups release: “Words cannot express our utmost disappointment at the Government of Nigeria’s abysmally poor handling of this matter with a compete disconnect, lack of commitment and sincerity in pursuing this matter.
“None of the purported commitments of the government right from inception has been followed through sincerely, thoughtfully, professionally, or with empathy. We fail to understand why this is so, however we remain undeterred in our demand. Today we commence activities to mark 3 years of the abduction and continued captivity of our daughters and sisters with a Global Week of Action with the theme (and hashtag) #3YearsTooLong: #NoMoreExcuses”.
She concluded by saying “This Global Week of Action is in essence a reiteration that ‘Enough is Enough’, No More Excuses, Bring Back Our Girls! Now and Alive!! Close to 2 years ago during our Global Week of Action to mark Day 500 of the abduction, our theme was ‘500 days is too long’. Today, sadly we are reiterating on the third year of the abduction, we have no intention of repeating this. #3YearsTooLong: #NoMoreExcuses #BringBackOurGirls”.
Speaking to Woman’s Own, Joe Okei-Odumakin asserts that “The fate of the missing Chibok girls, is such that for nearly three years, have kept coming with a feeling of sadness and uttermost disappointment, not only to the parents and relatives of these girls, but also to those who have been involved both locally and internationally, in the advocacy for the rescue of the girls”.
Okei-Odumakin also said “While one cannot but appreciate the efforts of our security agencies, particularly the Army in the efforts at rescuing the girls, which resulted in the recovery of over twenty of the school girls with over two hundred still missing. I must still say, that the Federal government is not doing enough, especially when we consider the hopes that the current administration brought when it came on board, as regards the urgent need to rescue the abducted girls. It is therefore my view, that the government must at this time, that world is commemorating the three years of the abduction of the girls, do all that is necessary, to ensure that the remaining Chibok girls are rescued and reunited with their families. Otherwise, Nigerians will continue to demand and hold the government responsible for the fate of the Chibok girls”.
Updates on chibok girls
While talking in a phone conversation with Womans Own, Buki Shonibare says “There has been no update so far, we are just going on with our activities. One would expect that this government will call together stake holders and do a feedback session to say this is where we are, this is the challenges we are having, this is how far we have come, this is what is possible. But nothing like that has happened”.
Freedom of information
Yesufu was of the opinion that “The government of Nigeria has treated the issue of our Chibok girls like their lives do not matter. Empty promises are made without fulfilling, and without accountability for the said promises. In October 2016 the world was told that 83 more of our girls were on their way out of captivity, up until now no comprehensive update has been given on that promise. That last time the federal government made a cursory remark on the issue was in January this year. |“President Muhammadu Buhari on 14 January 2016, authorized the set up of yet another investigation into the abduction, nothing has come out of that pronouncement, as the federal government denied our Freedom of Information (FOI) request to access the report of the Presidential Committee that investigated into the abduction (General Sabo Committee) in 2014. These are two of innumerable instances. Of the 24 who are back, the media reports only about 21; where are the other 3? The reports are not much to depend on, as the parents have also been reported to be in complete darkness on the update about their daughters”.
Reiterating Yesufu’s lamentation on governments neglect of the chibok girls, Shonibare commented “I will take it from two different angles. The first angle is that if anything is going on and the government is not communicating, what it tells the people is that nothing is going on. When you talk to a government official, they say they are doing something but they do not want to compromise security.
On the other hand, if there is indeed neglect, the implication is that it is boldly a time bomb waiting to happen. We have seen what Boko Haram has done with a number of these girls and boys that they have abducted. When you have these children still with Boko Haram, there is the possibility of being radicalized and because they are young girls who are in the hands of these heartless sets of people, the possibility of being sexually molested and abused is very high.
As at the last time I went to Chibok, you could see that expectation. Parents of these girls still call and ask us what is going on and what the government is saying. Some of them are getting some level of information while some are not getting any information. There is that need for balance, there is that need for constant communication. As long as the girls are still with Boko Haram, it sends a message that we are not yet safe. No matter how much they may have decimated Boko Haram, as long as those girls are not yet found, it sends a message that they still have the upper hand. Until that is done, the message being sent to Nigerians is that Boko Haram might have been decimated but there is still a ticking time bomb.